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College Planning Center
From the U.S. Department of Education

From the U.S. Department of Education

After high school, you can choose many different paths to continue your education. One path is to earn a certificate, degree, or diploma from a career college or technical school that will train you for a specific career, trade, or profession. Those schools train students for a variety of technical positions, including automotive technician, computer technician, hairstylist, medical assistant, truck driver, and many other fields.


Finding Schools That Match Your Interests and Goals


What kind of career and technical training do you want?

Education beyond high school at a career or technical school can lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate in a variety of programs like computer programming, automotive technology, business administration and management, cosmetology, and interior design. Think carefully about what you want to do with your life.

Find out as much as you can about the occupations that interest you by using the library and internet, or by talking to your counselor.


With so many options, you'll want to find the program that best matches your natural skills, abilities, and interests in order to prepare for a successful career in the field of your choice. Here are some good resources:

RIGHT GOLD ARROW Career Onestop provides information on determining your training needs and assessing your skills.

RIGHT GOLD ARROWOccupational Outlook Handbook describes the education and training needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations.


What preparation do you need for a particular job?

Do you need to complete a specific education program to get an entry-level job in the field you are interested in? Do you need to get a license or certificate in order to work in your field of choice?


To get the answers to these questions, check with your counselor, people already working in the field, and professional licensure agencies or certification organizations in your state. To find the certification requirements, and the certifying agencies for a variety of occupations, take a look at Career Onestop.


Find out if any special license or certification is needed to get a job in the field of your choice. If you need a certificate or license, ask any school you are considering if its graduates are eligible for licensure or certification after they complete its program.


It is also good to ask the school for the number of students who take and pass their licensing exams. Also, ask the school what percentage of its graduates find jobs in their field.


Will employers accept the training as preparation for employment?

Call the employment office or human resources department of some businesses or companies where you might like to work. Ask if they expect employees to have a certificate or license in order to be hired. Also ask if they can recommend a career college or technical school that provides the training required for employment.

Is the school you are considering accredited and licensed?

Is the school you are considering accredited and licensed?

Accrediting and state licensure agencies are gatekeepers that help make sure that you receive a quality education and get what you pay for. To learn more about accreditation and state licensure, read over the short descriptions below:


Accreditation is a good basic indicator of quality, although not every school chooses to be accredited. If a school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency, it means it has met certain quality standards established by the accrediting agency.


To find out if a school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency, check to see if the accrediting agency is included in the U.S. Department of Education's List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies.

More information on accreditation.


Licensure means that most states have laws requiring that career colleges and technical schools be licensed or certified to offer instructional courses and programs. If a school has a license or certificate to operate, it means it has gone through a process to make sure that it meets certain standards. Some states do not require certain schools to be licensed or certified to operate legally in the state.


Ask for names and phone numbers of the school's licensing and accrediting organizations, and check with them to see whether the school is up-to-date. Licensing is handled by state agencies. In many states, private vocational schools are licensed through the state Department of Education. Truck driver training schools, on the other hand, may be licensed by the state transportation department. Ask the school which state agency handles its licensing. 

What are the requirements for admission?

What are the requirements for admission?

Are there minimum entry requirements at the career college or technical school you are considering? Is a high school diploma or GED required? Contact the school and ask about their admission requirements, or go to your local library and look up information on the school.


Will your coursework transfer to another school?

When looking for a school to attend, you may want to find out if your coursework will transfer to another school for academic credit. Courses you take in one school do not automatically transfer to another school. To find out whether coursework will transfer to another school, call the admissions or registrar's office and ask if the institution will accept credits from the career or technical school you are considering.

Paying for Your Education

Paying for Your Education

How much will you pay for the program or training?

Ask about the total price of the training or program you are interested in. Also, ask if there are items not included in the total price that you would have to buy in order to successfully complete the training or program. Does the price cover books, supplies, and equipment, if needed?


Prices for similar programs can be quite different from one school to another, so it's best to know ahead of time what it will cost you to get a certificate, degree, or diploma. Ask about the price of the program before any student aid, and then what it may cost if you get student aid.


The process to pay for Career and Technical Schools is almost exactly the same as paying for a community college or a four year university. You can apply for FAFSA for schools that are accredited and you can even apply for scholarships. See our Paying for College page for details


Will you have to sign an enrollment contract?

If you make a decision to attend a career college or technical school, you will probably need to sign an enrollment contract. The contract will probably say that the school agrees to provide the program of instruction and other services outlined in the catalog and, in return, you agree to pay a certain sum of money and abide by the rules and regulations of the school.


Read the contract carefully and remember that the contract is a legally binding document between you and the school. Ask someone whose experience and advice you trust to review it with you. Make sure the contract specifically explains:

  • How much the program will cost you;

  • How long the program will last; and The school's refund policy

  • Take the time to review the refund policy published in the school's catalog. Every school is required to have a refund policy; however, policies will vary from state to state.

  • Don't sign a contract that has blanks in it. Read the entire document thoroughly before you sign, and do not sign unless you understand it. Once you have signed the agreement, be sure to keep a copy for your records.


How can you avoid diploma mills?

Unfortunately, there are some schools--often called "diploma mills"--that are more interested in taking your money than giving you a quality education. Information about how to avoid these types of schools can be found at: